Non-market housing models in Ontario: a stakeholder analysis.
Subject: Economic development (Forecasts and trends)
Economic development (Canada)
Authors: Sousa, Jorge
Quarter, Jack
Pub Date: 12/22/2004
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2004 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Winter, 2004 Source Volume: 13 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 010 Forecasts, trends, outlooks; 290 Public affairs Computer Subject: Market trend/market analysis
Product: Product Code: 8515300 Development; 9008000 Economic Programs-Total Govt NAICS Code: 5417 Scientific Research and Development Services; 926 Administration of Economic Programs
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Canada Geographic Name: Canada; Canada Geographic Code: 1CANA Canada
Accession Number: 129248094
Full Text: Abstract

The purpose of this study is to apply a stakeholder analysis to the restructuring of Ontario's non-market housing system from 1990 to the present. The analysis breaks down the key stakeholders involved in non-market housing and then looks at the functions each performed in 1990 and at present. This analysis is done for each of Ontario's four non-market housing models--public; non-profit co-operative; private non-profit and municipal non-profit. The non-market housing models were intended to remain distinct, but the findings from our stakeholder analysis reveal a pattern of shifts in stakeholder responsibilities in areas of management and administration, a pattern that has greatly reduced the distinctiveness of these models. This pattern is interpreted in light of the neoconservative agenda that has led to the downsizing and decentralization of government functions.

Keywords: Non-market housing, Stakeholder Analysis, Community Development


Le but de cette etude est d'appliquer une analyse de depositaire a la restructuration du systeme de logement de l'Ontario non destine a la vente depuis 1990. L'analyse decompose les depositaires principaux impliquds darts le logement non destine a la vente et regarde les fonctions de chacune en 1990 et au present. Cette analyse est faite pour chacun des quatre modeles de systeme de logement de l'Ontario non destine a la vente: public; co-operative et sans but lucratif ; prive et sans but lucratif; municipal et sans but lucratif. Les mode1es de logement non destines a la vente ont ete projete de demeurer distincts. Mais les resultats de l'analyse de depositaire indiquent des changements dans les responsabilites de depositaires dans les domaines de gestion et d'administration. Il s'agit d'un type de changements qui a reduit considerablement les caracteristiques distinctes de ces modeles. Ce type de changements est interprete a la lumiere du programme neo-conservateur qui a mene a la diminution et la decentralisation des fonctions gouvernementaires.

Mots cles: logement non destine a la vente, politique de logement, analyse de depositaire, developpement de la communaute, capital social


This study argues that for over the past 10 years a shifting in the various stakeholder responsibilities with respect to the array of functions associated with the operation of non-market housing has occurred. These shifts are the result of a process of policy convergence, initiated by the federal and provincial governments in the early 1990s, associated with the neo-conservative agenda of reducing government programs. Our data (based on a representative sample of non-profit, co-operative and public housing organizations in Ontario) indicate that the Ontario government's process of policy convergence has triggered a shifting of the roles of the different stakeholders involved in the non-market housing system, the outcome of which has been emerging as a trend towards harmonization into a single housing model by reducing the distinctiveness of the four non-market housing models.

This paper applies a stakeholder analysis to assess the impact that housing policy convergence has had on the delivery of non-market housing in Ontario. The harmonization of the non-market housing models is not yet complete, but our findings indicate that this transition is well advanced. One indication of harmonization is that government policies increasingly refer to all models of non-market housing as social housing (Ontario 2000a). A further indication, to be discussed later, is an experiment in tenant management of an urban public housing project that may signal an additional shift in the delivery of public housing and the movement toward a single model of social housing.

A Stakeholder Analysis

The term stakeholder is widely used in corporate analysis (Clarkson 1995; Freeman 1984; Jawahar and McLaughlin 2001), but often a particular stakeholder lacks defined rights and its use is symbolic (Jordan et al. 1992). Freeman (1984, 46) presents a widely used definition of a stakeholder: "... any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives." This definition casts a wide net and is refined by Clarkson (1995) who subdivides stakeholders into primary and secondary. In his words: "A primary stakeholder group is one without whose continuing participation the corporation cannot survive as a going concern" (Clarkson 1995, 106) whereas, the presence of a secondary stakeholder group is not integral to the survival of an organization (Clarkson 1995). In a more recent paper, Jawahar and McLaughlin (2001,402) suggest that among the primary stakeholders "at any given point in time, some ... will be more important than others." The level of importance implies that a change can occur within an organization giving one group the status of primary stakeholder and another lesser status at different stages of an organization's lifecycle (Jawahar and McLaughlin 2001).

Our analysis of non-market housing uses the classification of primary and secondary stakeholders in terms of the role they serve in the non-market housing system; however, the status of either group can change according to changes in function. The primary stakeholder groups include: tenants (users of the service), board of directors, professional management, non-market housing associations and development groups, and government housing agencies. The secondary stakeholder groups include: independent funding organizations or foundations; community agencies; and community representatives. Their role and significance may vary by the type of non-market housing model-for example, for public housing the government appears to be the dominant stakeholder, with government appointees serving on the board of directors and professional management serving as the board's representatives.

While the definition of stakeholder has been refined over time, a stakeholder analysis is more precise and is used to identify key stakeholders of a particular business, community or activities (Engel 1997) their significance in the operations and eventual success (Grimble and Wellard 1996). Stakeholder analysis has been used in different settings (for example, Grimble and Wellard 1996), and the purpose usually is to identify commonalities among stakeholders, including their relative influence. According to MacArthur (1997), the original goal of a stakeholder analysis was to serve as an assessment tool of the present state of an organization or program, but a stakeholder analysis is increasingly being used as a tool to assess changes within an organization's lifecycle. One limitation of a stakeholder analysis of corporations is that the organizational culture is built around the shareholders as the dominant group.

Conducting a stakeholder analysis is a useful way of exploring the roles of the different stakeholders involved in an organization or program. A key strength of a stakeholder analysis is that it provides a systematic approach for assessing the relative importance of particular stakeholders to the survival of an organization (Grimble and Chan 1994). Our use of stakeholder analysis adapts the typical approach and explores changes over time and what is guiding these changes.

With respect to non-market housing, although government, as a funder, has an important role, arguably it does not dominate to the same degree as shareholders in the corporate culture; within non-market housing, the functions of other stakeholders are more clearly defined. Any changes to the stakeholder's role and interests will have an impact on the identity of the non-market housing model.

Non-market Housing Policy

In Canada, the private sector's inability to provide affordable housing for those who either are unable to purchase private housing or afford the rent in the private rental market has given rise to an increased role by government in financing affordable housing-that is, housing that is not purchased in the housing market or sold for a profit (Drier and Hulchanski 1993; Hulchanski 1990). A major advantage of non-market housing over private-market rentals is that rents, or housing charges in housing co-operatives, rise only to meet increased operating costs.

Public housing was the original non-market housing model aimed at providing affordable housing to those low-income individuals and families that cannot afford to pay private market rents (Rose 1980). By the 1960s, the Canadian government determined that public housing was not feasible because of the high development and maintenance costs (Sewell 1994). Additionally, changes occurred because of the pervasive social problems related to ghettoizing large numbers of low-income families (Prince 1998; Rose 1980).

The National Housing Act was amended in 1973 to limit the federal government's role in the direct administration and financing of current and future non-market housing properties by encouraging the production of alternative non-market housing models (Van Dyk 1995; Rose 1980). The new models of non-market housing-co-operatives and non-profit housing-were called social housing and they emerged as partnerships between the government and various community-based non-profit and co-operative organizations such as churches, service clubs, seniors' organizations, unions, and ethno-cultural groups, cooperative corporations, and municipal governments (Carter 1997). The nonprofit housing model is subdivided into two forms: municipal non-profits and private non-profits. The primary distinction is based on who the sponsoring organization is. Municipal non-profits are part of a government bureaucracy while the private non-profits are governed by private organizations, which may or may not include tenant representatives.

In the original form, social housing diverged from public housing in a variety of ways. In non-profits and co-operatives, the historical practice has been for a tenant-selection process to be co-ordinated by each organization, whereas in public housing the tenants have always been selected from a centralized waiting list within each housing authority (Ontario 2000a). The residents, or members in the case of a co-operative, had a more defined role in decision making under the partnership model.

Co-operative and non-profits have had a greater income mix among residents than public housing. They also contrast to public housing in that the members or residents have security of tenure, such that they can live in the community for as long as they wish provided that they adhere to community-established rules or by-laws and pay the community-established housing charge or rents (Cooperative Housing Federation of Toronto 2002; Ontario Non-profit Housing Association 2002; Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation 1997). In most public housing projects, the residents are expected to move once they can afford to pay market rates.

Social housing has successfully overcome the many shortcomings associated with the public housing model (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation 1997; Dennis and Fish 1972; Hellyer 1969). Social housing was not only meant to replicate the provision of affordable housing, as found in public housing but also to establish the means under which a stable sense of community among a diverse group of people and interests could exist (Cooper and Rodman 1992; Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada 2002). For instance, Skelton (2002) states that the co-operative model was supposed to expand the affordable housing stock, but the collective ownership found in co-operatives also provides opportunities for social transformation and relationship building among neighbours.

While there have been similarities in the social housing models, one of the key differences is their respective system of governance. In cooperatives, the members elect from among their group, the board of directors and members participate in related committees. For private non-profits, the board of directors is normally appointed by the sponsoring organization and for municipal non-profits by the appropriate level of government. Therefore, of all models of non-market housing, co-operatives place the greatest emphasis on member participation.

Until recently, the public housing projects were owned by the provincial government and managed by autonomous local housing authorities. The local housing authorities operated as government agencies and were governed by a single board of directors of government appointees and were therefore neither independent of the government nor accountable to the residents. The local housing authorities were accountable to the provincial government through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Although tenants of public housing have a claim to being viewed as a primary stakeholder, the absence of meaningful resident participation has meant that their influence within the organization has always been limited to that of the user of a service. Nevertheless, as will be discussed later, there are indications that government housing agencies are attempting to enhance the role of tenants within public housing and decentralize control to a greater extent.

The four models of non-market housing are the principal means to deliver affordable housing to low-income earners. As a key funder, the government has had significant input into the policy directions of the individuals housing models: however, government housing agencies did not dominate to the same extent as in public housing. As a result of recent changes of legislation and practices, there have been distinct changes in the roles of the stakeholders.

The Changing Housing Policy Context in Ontario

During the 1990s, as part of the neo-conservative agenda, governments in Canada started to withdraw their support for non-market housing. In 1993, the federal government downloaded the responsibility to the provinces (Carroll and Jones 2000). While some larger provinces, such as Quebec and British Columbia, continued with their housing development programs, following the 1995 election, the Conservative government in Ontario-the focus of this study-placed a freeze on building new non-market housing and even cancelled many contracts. The impact of Ontario government policies in ending the development of new nonmarket housing is well documented (Layton 2000), the consequences of these changes on existing non-market housing are not as evident.

From the mid-1990s, changes to the Ontario government's housing policy has been based on two broad strategies: first and perhaps foremost, was to encourage a greater role for the private sector by providing incentives such as making it easier for landlords to raise rents (the so-called Tenant Protection Act). The government assumed that the private sector housing developers and landlords would fill any gaps for low-income households requiring affordable housing, something that has not occurred (Statistics Canada 2000). However, undeterred by the lack of results, in 2000 the Ontario government formalized a second strategy in the form of new legislation, called the Social Housing Reform Act, which devolved responsibility to finance and manage social housing onto 47 reluctant municipal governments. According to the Ontario government, changing the funding relationships and the reporting structure was intended to make the non-market housing system more efficient (Ontario 2000a). The legislation effectively removed the provincial government from being financially responsible for providing non-market housing, but the legislation also states that the Provincial government maintains ultimate regulatory control over polices related to managing social housing (Ontario 2000b).

In January 2001, devolution became a reality and municipal governments, referred to as the service manager, have replaced the federal and provincial governments as the primary funder for non-market housing. One of the objectives of the Social Housing Reform Act was to create uniformity in the relationship between all non-market housing developments and government. As a result the government replaced the local housing authorities with local housing corporations that operate as independent agencies of the municipal governments, and called on the service managers to make the delivery of non-market housing more cost effective (Ontario 2000b). Furthermore, this legislation outlined a new funding and reporting relationship between all models of non-market housing, including non-profits and co-operatives, with the three levels of government by forcing all non-market housing providers to become accountable to the municipal government rather than one of the other levels of government. These changes were undertaken with the belief that "... social housing is best administered by local governments who are closest to the people they serve and who best understand the needs of their communities" (Ontario 2000a, 4).

From a policy perspective the Social Housing Reform Act (Ontario 2000a) was intended to simplify, or converge, the different polices associated with the non-market housing system. The notion of policy convergence normally refers to the simplification and merging of state policies within a changing political system through a process of consolidation (Bratt 1998; Koebel, Steinberg and Dyck 1998). There exists a scholarly tradition of researching the rationale guiding policy convergence (Bennett 1991; Carrol and Jones 2000). However, there has been a notable absence of research examining the impact of policy convergence on the different government services. In this paper we present a stakeholder analysis methodology to understanding the impact that policy convergence has had on the non-market housing system since 1990 by focusing on the shifts of the role of the primary and secondary stakeholders.


Procedure and Design

In order to assess the shift in stakeholder functions in non-market housing over the past ten years, this study undertook the following steps. First, an in-depth examination of the various housing policies was conducted to determine whether shifts in government policy are reflected in changes to current administrative practices. Second, a taxonomy was developed detailing the different functions required to manage effectively a non-market housing property. Third, semi-structured interviews were undertaken with primary and secondary stakeholders in order to understand the changes since 1990 in the functions integral to the development, administration, and management of each form of non-market housing.

The semi-structured interview was designed to determine which stakeholders controlled particular functions for each of the non-market housing models in 1990 and at present. The primary stakeholders were tenants (users of the service), board of directors, professional management, non-profit housing associations and development groups, and government housing agencies. The secondary stakeholders were independent foundations who provide financing and community representatives and local support agencies.

The interviewees were key informants from each model of non-market housing (non-profit municipal, non-profit private, co-operative, and public). The participants did not necessarily hold the same role within the organization, but all were knowledgeable-for example, property manager, property co-coordinator, vice-president, and policy analyst. The interview was focused but lasted up to 90 minutes. The information collected from the interviews was subsequently checked against a content analysis of the various policy documents.

Sample Selection

In order to draw a sample of key informants from each housing model-municipal non-profit, private non-profit, co-operative and public the sampling frame consisted of all non-market housing organizations across the province of Ontario. The province was geographically divided into five regions according to area code: Northern Ontario (807 and 705), Eastern Ontario (613), Western Ontario (519), the Greater Toronto Area (905), and the Metropolitan Toronto (416). Table 1 presents the distribution of the four non-market housing models by region. As can be seen, the distribution by region is uneven, but in selecting a sample it was decided to choose an equal number per region because of issues could arise that are particular to a region. Therefore, for each model, one organization was chosen at random for each region, leading to a total sample of 20.

Contact information for non-profit housing was obtained from the 2001-02 directory, Ontario Non-profit Housing Association (2002) containing listings for private non-profits (n=600) and of municipal non-profits (n=108). These organizations are members of the Ontario Non-profit Housing Association, which is a member-based organization of non-profit housing providers from across Ontario. The association is a second-tier resource organization that provides advocacy and support for non-profit housing providers.

For co-operatives, the source was a listing of 817 housing co-operatives in Ontario that was obtained from the Co-operative Secretariat of Canada (2001). The Co-operative Secretariat of Canada is a federal agency that coordinates the interaction between the government and the co-operative sector. For public housing, the source was a contact list of the 47 municipal local housing corporations in Ontario obtained from the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

In the sampling and data analysis, we differentiated between private nonprofits (such as those administered by religious organizations, labour bodies, or Aboriginal groups) and those administered by municipalities. All non-market housing organizations in the sample had the same target groups, including families, seniors and special needs, and their age range was 15 to 30 years. In the cooperative sample, the number of units ranged from 25 to 150, whereas in the private non-profit sample the number of units ranged from 25 to 500. In the municipal non-profit sample the number of units ranged from 25 to 28,000 and in the public housing sample the number of units ranged from 5,000 to 25,000. In it important to note that in the final two models municipal non-profit and public housing--the count is the aggregate for the government housing organization and not a single property.


The interview protocol was divided into fourteen sections, each looking at a different function involved in the management of a housing community, for example: who supervises the staffing; who is involved in establishing key policies or bylaws; how is the property management hired; and who establishes capital priorities.

The data were collected whenever possible in a face-to-face interviews or alternatively by telephone. Although the roles of the key informants varied, there were two criteria for inclusion in the study: first, knowledge of the questions; and second, involvement in the Ontario non-market housing system for at least 10 years.

The interview contained two framing questions that were focused on the following areas: which stakeholder undertakes the function currently; and which stakeholder undertook the function in 1990 prior to the major changes in housing policy associated with the neo-conservative agenda. Examples of questions include:

* Who was responsible to hire the staff in 1990?

* Who is responsible to hire staff now?

The interviews mapped the functions undertaken by each stakeholder in different time periods. In other words, the goal was to get a clear understanding of the specific functions controlled by each stakeholder. The interview was the same for key informants from each of the four models of non-market housing.

Data Analysis

There were three primary steps in the data analysis. First, in order to determine whether there have been any shifts in the responsibility of undertaking certain functions, the responses of each organization were summarized according to a particular function. The second step involved aggregating the responses by non-market housing model and also by region. The third step was to compare the responses to existing policy documents.


Since non-market housing organizations rely significantly on government funding, they are vulnerable to changes in government housing policy. According to the findings of this study the Social Housing Reform Act has resulted in a number of significant changes to the identities of each non-market housing model. The following section illustrates the changes that have occurred to the various non-market-housing models. The data show that the changes in how the non-market housing organizations manage the housing properties are associated with a change to the stakeholder group responsible for a particular function.

Five broad categories or themes within the area of administration and management emerged from the analysis of the data:

* Contracting of services

* Operating and capital revenue

* Centralization of functions

* Establishing market rents

* Resident participation

A discussion of the data relating to each category follows.

Contracting of Services

The escalating costs associated with managing a housing property in addition to the increased need for affordable housing in Ontario have made non-market housing organizations look for innovative ways of dealing with unstable government funding. To reduce costs, a number of services that were normally handled by staff have been contracted to the private sector, including property management, minor and major maintenance of the property, and administrative tasks such as rent collection.

Contracting out services has been a strategy used by many private non-profits and co-operatives to reduce costs associated with managing a property. Until recently, municipal non-profits and public housing have not widely used contracting out as a cost saving measure. However, since the devolution of housing to the municipalities, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of functions contracted out by the municipal non-profits and public housing to include property management and security. Therefore, since devolution, all four non-market-housing models rely heavily on contracting out of services.

The stakeholders that are involved in the hiring of a property management company vary according to the model of non-market housing. According to the data, for private and municipal non-profits and co-operatives, the board of directors makes the decision on who is hired; though in co-operatives the decision normally involves member input. In public housing, the administrative staff of the local housing corporation makes the decision.

Operating and Capital Revenue

The sources of revenue for non-market housing are a combination of rents, the rent-geared-to-income subsidy and the bridge subsidy. The private nonprofits and co-operatives still receive the bridge subsidy, most commonly associated with the federal commitments that have remained in place until the expiration of the operating agreements. The key change to the sources of revenue is that the municipality is now the primary funder for the non-market housing organizations.

For all non-market organizations, there is a lack of support for capital projects such as major maintenance and rehabilitation. This is a major concern since many of the properties are over 30 years old. According to the interviewees with co-operatives and non-profits, the rent-geared-to-income subsidy is stable and is used for the operating budget. However, once the current operation agreements expire, the continuation of the bridge subsidy to support capital projects is uncertain.

Several of the interviewees suggested that since public housing organizations access a central fund for capital improvements and development, there is concern that "co-ops and non-profits may have to try and access the same source for capital improvements." The implication is that there will be less money for individual properties requiring capital improvements. Furthermore, should they have to access the same fund as the other two models, private non-profits and co-operatives will lose control over capital planning because the priorities will be governed by the policies of the central fund.

With the devolution of non-market housing to municipal governments, all non-market housing organizations have had to adjust their budgeting and reporting practices in order to continue to receive funding. The concern is that the tax base of the municipality cannot support the increased costs of the non-market housing system. The squeeze on capital expenditures has caused private non-profits and co-operatives to increase the rents, or housing changes, from non-subsidized units in order to make up the shortfall of government funding.

The municipal government, through its local housing corporation, is now the primary stakeholder in establishing financial priorities for municipal non-profits and public housing. Recently, residents have been consulted in specific areas of establishing the budget and capital priorities. In Metro Toronto and in Northern Ontario, in particular, community-based budgeting practices have been instituted that allow residents to contribute to deciding the capital priorities.

In co-operatives, the members, through the board of directors that they elect, remain the primary stakeholders in establishing priorities for the operating and the capital budgets. However, with the changes to financing, if public funds are being used government will now have an increased say in determining the priorities. In effect, the process that establishes the priorities has become similar to that found in public housing.

Centralization of Functions

The data show a trend toward increased centralization of services that are integral to effectively maintaining a non-market housing organization, and this trend is pronounced in two areas: first the property management: and, second, the increased centralization of the tenant selection process. A description of the changes to the property administration and to the centralized waiting list follows.

Property Administration and Management

In 1990, on-site property management was the common practice for most non-market housing models. In those cases, an on-site property manager was directly responsible for processing maintenance requests, staff supervision, and addressing general tenant issues. As a result of the centralization over the past ten years of the management and administrative functions, there has been a decrease in the number of on-site property managers. According to one interviewee, "a single individual is now responsible for a portfolio, with at least a dozen housing communities consisting of thousands of households." This trend towards centralization was seen primarily in municipal non-profits and public housing; to date, many co-operatives and private non-profits still have an onsite management or co-ordinator.

Centralization is also being realized through an increased use of technology, notably in public housing and both forms of non-profits. For instance, rent collection in public housing and municipal non-profits is completed through an automatic deduction from a tenant's bank account; several private non-profits are starting to use the same technology. The use of technology for administrative tasks has led to a reduction in human contact within each housing development. However, many smaller communities, particularly co-operatives, still maintain on-site collection of rent.

Centralized Waiting List

A second area of increased centralization is in the process of tenant selection. In 1996 the provincial government mandated that there be a central waiting list, referred to as a co-ordinated access list, of individuals who are eligible to receive a subsidy and live in non-market housing. The centralized list is now the standard practice across the province and is commonly associated with the social services division of the municipality. A central list is not new for public housing and municipal non-profits, but it represents a major change of practice for private non-profits and co-operatives with subsidized households. In order to qualify for the rent-geared-to-income subsidy, they now have to select residents from the municipal waiting lists rather than making independent decisions.

On average, private non-profits and co-operatives have a one-to-one ratio between those who receive rent subsidies and those who do not. By forcing the private non-profits and the co-operatives to access the centralized waiting list, the responsibility of tenant selection has shifted outside of the housing community. With an increased reliance on a central registry by all four non-market-housing models, there is less community control over who is eligible to become a tenant and an overall change in the communities themselves. Co-operatives, in particular, have toyed with the option of forgoing future subsidies and opting instead for having only units that pay the market rent. However, it was evident from the interviews that this option is not affordable and it may compromise the principles upon which the housing co-operative movement was founded.

Establishing Market Rents

As stated earlier, public housing projects are 100 percent low-income and all residents are eligible to receive a rent-geared-to-income subsidy, thereby making it impossible to have a mixed income community. One of the changes occurring in public housing has been the adoption of a rent cap, or maximum rent a household pays, which is based on equivalent market units. This means that should a household's income increase over time, the rent will not exceed market levels. The rent cap is perceived as a strategy to encourage households that are upwardly mobile to remain in the community. For a variety of reasons rent caps do not exist in many public housing organizations outside of Metro Toronto.

The rent cap in public housing is based on an annual rent survey conducted by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), which looks at census metropolitan areas that encompasses a larger area than the immediate neighbourhood. In the past, the other models of non-market housing have determined rents using the immediate neighbourhood as a frame of reference. However, several interviewees stated that because of the dependence on the revenue collected from market units, private non-profits and co-operatives are making greater use of the CMHC rent survey as the basis for establishing market rents. The survey is seen as a way of justifying higher rents or housing charges. According to an individual associated with the private non-profit housing model: "The CMHC survey often recommends higher rent levels than we are comfortable with. We don't normally use the CMHC survey, but our need for revenue is growing from year to year."

Allowing a greater income mix in public housing represents is a shift in government policy. Similarly, the inclusion of more low-income tenants in nonprofits and co-operatives reflects a harmonization of the models on this issue.

There is also a convergence in the process of establishing rents. In cooperatives and private and municipal non-profits, the board of directors normally has established the rents. However, because of the increased dependence on the money collected from units paying rent according the market, as defined by the CMHC rent survey, the board of directors is less influential in determining rents. The increased reliance on market trends is congruent with the provincial government's goal of increasing the role of the private sector in providing affordable housing.

Resident Participation

Resident participation in decision-making can be presented on a continuum ranging from minimal involvement in municipal non-profits and public housing to partial involvement for private non-profits, to full member involvement in cooperatives. The issue of resident involvement was quite contentious for the various organizations participating in this study. Many of the interviewees strongly welcomed resident input and direct involvement, while others believed that resident input is often uninformed but still welcomed it to a degree.

Resident involvement is one of the strengths of the co-operative model and a pillar on which the movement was founded. Over the past ten years, the other models of non-market housing have recognized the benefits of involving residents in the operations and many of them are adopting similar approaches to co-operatives.

Establishing operating and capital budget priorities has been one area where increasing resident participation has been successful. According to the interviews, prior to devolution the budgets for non-market housing organizations were created from a provincial list of predetermined priorities, which had to be adhered in order to maintain levels of funding. The exception was older housing co-operatives that received their funding from the federal government. However, since devolution to the municipalities, it appears that there is greater resident participation in establishing budget priorities in all models of non-market housing. The change is particularly notable in public housing, which historically has not involved tenants in budgetary decision-making.

According to an interview with a public housing official:


Our analysis indicates that changes in the Ontario provincial government policies have led to a greater harmonization in the non-market housing models. In all four models, the board of directors and the government retain the status of primary stakeholder in decision-making. However, there are other changes in the roles of particular stakeholders, changes that represent a shift from being a secondary stakeholder to that of primary. For instance, residents are more involved in municipal non-profits and public housing and government has become more involved in the private non-profits and co-operatives. With the changes to funding regulations for the non-market housing system, in general, the government maintains a significant role in the operations of the non-market housing models; however, as the results demonstrate that the type and level of involvement of the government has shifted over the past ten years.

One of the key concerns expressed by the individual non-profit and cooperative organizations is the impact that these changes will have on the identity of their communities. For instance, by not having a say in who is eligible to live in the housing property individuals may live there because of low cost housing as opposed to building a sense of community. Furthermore, individuals on the waiting lists are more likely to select the smaller properties because of the stigma attached to living in public housing. Consequently, public housing may turn out to be for those individuals who did not want to live there in the first place.

After reviewing the current configuration of stakeholder responsibilities, even though there has been a harmonization of the four models, there are still differences. Public housing, in particular, still differs from private non-profits and co-operatives. However, there is a unique experiment underway in downtown Toronto-one of a kind in Canada-involving the conversion of a public housing project to a tenant managed co-operative within public housing (the Atkinson Housing Co-operative) that if replicated would lead to further harmonization of the non-market housing models.

There have been conversions of public housing in the U.S., Britain, and Australia, but these have been shifts to either private home ownership or limited equity co-operatives (Balchin, Isaac and Rhoden 1998; Best 1996; Darcy 1999; Department of Housing and Urban Development 1999; Epp 1996; Hague 1990; Miceli, Sazama and Sirmans 1998; Rohe 1995; Vale 2002), or the creation of tenant-managed corporations (Hugman and Sotiri 2001; Koebel and Cavell 1995).

The conversion of Alexandra Park public housing project to Atkinson Housing Co-operative started when the residents decided over 10 years ago that they wanted more control over decision-making. Atkinson Housing Co-operative differs from other housing co-operatives in that it remains within the public sector, all of its residents receive a housing subsidy, and its managerial prerogatives are more limited than for housing co-operatives in general (Atkinson Co-operative 1996). However, in this community, the tenants elect from their group a board of directors that forms the legal governance of the organization. This represents a major departure in the administration of a public housing project. Atkinson remains unique in Canada, but it is being watched closely as there are indications that the Ontario government would like to introduce it more widely. Should this occur, there would be minimal difference between public housing and the other non-market housing models.

Even though the Atkinson conversion is unique, it may also be seen as part of a tradition of conversions from public housing. Atkinson has many similarities to Resident-management corporations (RMCs) in the United States, for example negotiating a legal agreement to undertake management responsibilities with the local government housing agency, but unlike those organizations, Atkinson also has the potential to develop in a way that conforms more closely to housing co-operatives and to increase its distance from government control.

Two significant differences are found in the relationship to the government and in the system of governance process. In the RMC model a management agreement is established with a duly elected board of directors of the corporation. This board does not have to be comprised of residents, and nor are they directly accountable to the residents. In this way, an RMC is similar to the non-profit model found in Canada. In the co-operative housing model the relationship is based on an operating agreement which outlines responsibilities other than management. The system of governance in the co-operative model must include residents at every step. However, the Atkinson model includes non-member directors, thereby making it similar to the RMC model. In essence, the Atkinson has features that straddle most developed models of social housing.

Even if the Atkinson experiment is not replicated in other public housing projects, the pattern toward homogeneity remains pronounced--government is more tightly regulating the finances of non-market housing organizations and thereby reducing their degrees of freedom in decision-making; the budgets are being reduced and thereby leading to homogenous contracting-out for services, including management; the income mix is being flattened in co-operatives and non-profits and being enhanced in public housing, thereby leading to homogeneity; and tenant consultation is becoming a norm for public housing and external controls are reducing tenant impact in the other models.

With the exception of the increased tenant consultation in public housing, the other changes can be attributed to the neo-conservative agenda of smaller government with reduced services, less involvement of government in the direct provision of service, and the targeting of government expenditure to the neediest members of society rather than having universal programs. Although tenant consultation can be viewed in the context of the human resources tradition (Nightingale 1982), in fact the selling point of the Atkinson conversion to the Ontario government is that it will reduce costs (Atkinson Co-operative 1996). According to one source, "by converting into a co-operative the government can immediately save about 15 percent in administration costs." In other words, even though this experiment can be interpreted as part of a tenant rights tradition, it is viewed as creating efficiencies that are associated with smaller, more efficient government.


In closing, non-market housing is the outcome of partnerships between government and other stakeholders. The stakeholder analysis methodology used in this paper has exposed a pronounced pattern shift in the delivery of non-market housing in Ontario. Should the trend of increased hamonization continue, the social housing system would be adopting practices found in managing public housing (such as stricter government oversight) practices which have been implicated in the lacklustre condition of public housing projects. The departure from these practices in 1973 was the raison d'etre of the new social housing models (Dennis and Fish 1972).

Although it may be too late to change the trend toward harmonization, non-market housing policy can enhance a sense of community by building on the successes of the co-operative housing model, particularly, smaller cooperatives. The building of community requires augmenting social capital (Putnam 1998, 2000), that is, encouraging greater social engagement among residents, increasing reciprocity and trust, as is often found in small cooperatives housing communities. Future non-market housing policy must encourage greater resident control in the management of their community, which means regarding residents as primary stakeholders and not merely users of a service. In essence, the promotion of social capital should underlie future policy planning with respect to non-market housing.

As construct social capital has a role in the development of future housing policy (Keyes, Schwartz, Vidal, and Bratt 1996; Putnam, 1998, 2000) specifically, housing policy must encourage the building of social capital in low-income housing communities. According to Putnam (2000) the presence of social capital in a community can be a determinate of an individual's sense of belonging; in other words, one's sense of community (Lomas 1998). The Atkinson Housing Cooperative is a prime example of assimilating co-operative practices into the public housing model by focusing on the different roles that stakeholders can have on the management and governance of a housing community.


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Jorge Sousa and Jack Quarter

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

University of Toronto
The increases in resident involvement over the past ten years
   in the public housing and municipal non-profits is a recognition
   that local resident involvement is the best way to ensure that
   the communities are well maintained and that the needs of the
   residents are accounted for. For the public housing residents,
   the best way to ensure that their needs are addressed is to
   participate in anything available to them.

Table 1. Sampling Frame of Ontario Non-market Housing Organizations

                             Nonprofit   Nonprofit
Region         Cooperative   Municipal    Private    Public    Total

Metro Toronto      308           2         161         1       164
West               141          19         137        15       171
East                87          41          73         9       123
North               79          35         123        15       173
GTA                202          11         106         7       124

Total              817         108         600        47       1572
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